1. Bats are not blind!

  2. Bats are not rats that developed wings!

  3. Bats are neither birds, nor bugs!

  4. Bats are not draculas, demons, nor angels!


Bats are mammals. Thus, like us and rats, they have hairs, regulate their body temperature (‘warm blood’), and breastfeed their pups. We, bats and rats belong to the same class of animals, the Mammalia. Birds, for instance, belong to the class Aves.

Each class is subdivided into orders, and the order that comprises humans is called Primates, which includes also monkeys, apes, tamarins, lemurs and marmosets. The order of rats is the Rodentia, and comprises also capybaras, mice and agoutis.

The bat order is called Chiroptera, which means ‘hands in the shape of wings’ (in Greek: kheir = hand + pteron = wing). Just remember ‘chiropraxis’ and ‘pterosaur’ for the etymology. This order comprises 18 families and at least 1,116 species in the world (Simmons 2005), and 174 species in Brazil (Paglia et al. 2012).

Wings, among vertebrates, are a modification of forelimbs (‘arms’), thus bats and birds have only two wings (insects may have four). Bat wings are unique and different from bird and pterosaur wings. Bats have five fingers in each hand (like us), birds have three and pterosaurs had five. The bat body has a large membrane that encompasses four fingers (except for the thumb) and forms the wing. Bird wings are formed mainly by feathers attached to forelimbs. Pterosaur wings were also formed by a membrane, but the size and shape of their fingers were different from bats. See the figure below.

Further readings: For English readers, there is a lot of interesting information in the Bat Wikipedia. There is also a nice popular book, The World of Bats (Richarz & Limbruner 1993), and the amazing website of Bat Conservation International. If you can read Portuguese, there are some excellent articles targeted at general audiences, which give baseline information and destroy myths. I recommend especially the articles Cara de Vilão Vida de Mocinho [Face of a Bad Guy, Life of a Good Guy] (Vieira 2005) Senhores da Noite [Lords of the Night] (Figueiredo 2007), Desmistificando Morcegos [Demystifying Bats] (Pinto 2008), and Anjos Negros [Black Angels] (Bourscheit 2008). If you want to know more about bat-plant interactions, I suggest my outreach article Morcegos e Frutos: Interação que Gera Florestas [Bats and Fruits: Interaction that Generates Forests]. There is also the free book Morcegos do Brasil [Bats from Brazil] (Reis et al. 2007), with biological information for all Brazilian species.

Visit also the website of the Brazilian Bat Research Society: